Many Baltimore residents have a vague understanding of how criminal law and civil law are different. While criminal law involves the threat of prison time, civil law typically involves the imposition of damages against the losing party. In some cases, the same event may give rise to both criminal and civil liability. For example, if someone is injured in an auto accident, the driver who caused the accident might, under certain circumstances, be charged criminally, as well as sued in a civil lawsuit.
This may be particularly true in the case of a drunk driving accident. Drunk drivers may be charged criminally, of course, but can also be held liable in a civil lawsuit if a plaintiff can prove the accident was caused by a drunk driver. One such accident recently occurred in Maryland after a potentially drunk driver was driving in the wrong direction on the highway. As a result, the driver and another were involved in a head-on collision. Both drivers had to go to the hospital due to the accident, and police believe alcohol was involved in the incident.
The plaintiff in the civil case will need to prove the intoxication level of the allegedly drunk driver; the plaintiff must also prove that this level was higher than permitted in order to operate their vehicle safely. Finally, the plaintiff will need to make clear how the defendant failed to exercise reasonable care for the safety of the public.
To meet the requirements above, the plaintiff may utilize a police report of the accident, which can help establish the intoxication of the defendant. Witness reports may also be used, as well as expert opinions on the cause of the accident. Ultimately, a qualified attorney can determine the proper way of proving the civil claim.
Source: Baltimore Sun, "Two in stable condition after head-on crash on Route 32," Luke Lavoie, Jan. 28, 2013